Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


BEE, Molly

(b Molly Gene Beachboard, 18 August 1939, Oklahoma City OK; d 7 February 2009,  Oceanside CA) Country singer, actress. The family moved to Tennessee, then Arizona, then Los Angeles when she was 11 years old. She had already begun her career in music at age 10, singing 'Lovesick Blues' on Rex Allen's radio show in Tucson; three years later she was a star, her hit 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' a pop top 20 in December 1952 on Capitol (12-year-old Jimmy Boyd had the no. 1 on Columbia), and she had a regular role on Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree TV show in California.

She did not have many chart hits after that, but she was a popular live attraction. She made her movie debut in 1954 in Corral Cuties, opposite Tennessee Ernie Ford, with whom she had recorded the duet 'Don’t Start Courtin’ in a Hot Rod Ford' the year before. More films included Going Steady and Summer Love (1958), The Chartroose Caboose (1960) and The Young Swingers (1963). These were teen comedies, some with music; Summer Love actually had quite a cast, with Molly playing opposite John Saxon, a period heart-throb, with Jill St John, Shelley Fabares, Rod McKuen, Troy Donahue and Fay Wray all in the supporting cast. (Wray was not exactly fresh from being the first King Kong's main squeeze many years earlier.) The Chartroose Caboose had Edgar Buchanan and Slim Pickens playing comedy opposite each other, and some great train photography; it was shot with a special lens in Panovision, the second film to be so made after Mike Todd's legendary Around The World In Eighty Days. But a fire at Universal destroyed the negative and the prints, and the film is regarded as lost. The Young Swingers had little to recommend it except Gene McDaniels in a supporting role.

On stage Molly appeared in various productions of musical shows The Boy Friend, Paint Your Wagon and Finian's Rainbow. She also had a regular role on Ford’s TV variety show, and played Pinky Lee’s sidekick on one of the most popular children’s programs of the 1950s. Her career began to fade by the late 1960s. Her last film was Hillbillys In A Haunted House (1967), perhaps one of those films worth watching because it's so bad, with John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr and Basil Rathbone all near the ends of their careers, but also Merle Haggard, Sonny James, Ferlin Husky and Molly all playing more or less themselves. It was an excuse for a lot of country music. In later years she was candid in saying that a period of drug abuse was one of the reasons her career stalled. She was married five times.

She began a comeback in the 1970s, playing country bars and slowly rebuilding her audience, having hits in the Billboard country chart in 1974-5 with 'She Kept On Talkin' ' and Right Or Left On Oak Street' on a Granite label. Her albums included Good Golly Ms. Molly '75 and Sounds Fine to Me '82. In later life she appeared at autograph shows.